There is no right diet for everyone, not even for those who are chronically ill. No doubt though that tweaking our diet one way or another can increase our health. Intermittent fasting is just one of many diet tools that might or might not fit your specific needs. Although I use it, love it, it simply is not right for everyone and I will tell you why.
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Here in this blog, we are going to cover the basics of what it is and a little science. Then go on to look at the pros and cons of it, including the physical and the psychological effects of it.
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is more about WHEN you are eating than specifying WHAT to eat. Therefore it is more of an eating pattern than it is a true diet.
If you are not familiar with it, then you don’t realize, you are most likely already doing it!!
When you sleep at night, you are not eating. You are fasting while you sleep.
When you wake up, you break the fast with breakfast.
In recent years, Intermittent Fasting (IF) has become quite popular, especially in the health community. One can take this to a much deeper level than what I am describing here.
On a basic level, Intermittent Fasting can simply be extending the hours that one does not eat, beyond sleeping hours.
- If you normally eat dinner at 7 p.m. and then a snack at 8 p.m. and then you don’t eat anything else until the next morning at 8 a.m., you have gone 12 hours without eating. That is considered the basics of IF.
- You can play with it. In the morning, you can just drink water until lunchtime and eat for the first time at noon. That gives you a 16-hour window of not eating. Some people, in the morning, will do a Bulletproof Coffee (or something like it), which doesn’t break the fast.
- Or you can go the other direction and stop eating earlier in the evening. First, eliminate snacking after your dinner. That would mean you ate dinner at 7 p.m. and then you stopped eating. That increases your fasting time (in this scenario) by another hour.
You can extend this time period for as much as you want. Some people consider it Intermittent Fasting to pick one day a week not to eat all, that is a 24-hour fast. You can push it a bit more which actually turns into 36-hour fast once a week.
Example: Sunday night you eat your dinner at 7 p.m. On Monday at 7 p.m. it has been 24 hours. Don’t stop there, keep going until the next morning at 7 a.m. and you have made it 36 hours.
Since everyone is so different, this is an easy “diet” that many can play with to meet their needs. It is a very flexible way to fast.
Then come those that Intermittent Fasting is not good for. Let’s look at both sides before making up your mind if this is right for you or not. Hang on, we are getting to the downside of it.
When is Intermittent Fasting a Good Idea?
There are a lot of health benefits of Intermittent Fasting.
In general, we eat too much. Incorporating Intermittent Fasting into your lifestyle contributes to eating less which generally means better health.
Think about your digestive system. It needs rest just like you do at times. When we do not eat, we are resting our digestive tract, allowing our bodies to break down the food and move it along. Instead of eating most of our waking hours and making it work so hard, give it a break with Intermittent Fasting.
There are many health benefits of Intermittent Fasting that come along with evidence-based science…
- Skip Meals To Live Longer And Lose Weight ~ GreenMedInfo
- Extends lifespan
- Improves age-related diseases
- Regenerates the brain
- Doubles weight loss
- Fasting to Heal Autoimmune Disease ~ GreenMedInfo
- Evidence in support for fasting for autoimmunity
- Fasting for sleep, detoxification, and circadian rhythm management
I am all for it, but only if Intermittent Fasting suits you and your circumstances. If Intermittent Fasting is a bad idea for you, please do not do it.
Healing from the soul to the cell…
There can also be a spiritual aspect of fasting that feeds the soul.
Finally, time to look at the flip side of Intermittent Fasting.
When is Intermittent Fasting a Bad Idea?
There is no way one diet is good for everyone. There are some circumstances when Intermittent Fasting is a really bad idea.
There are some physical downsides and some emotional downsides to Intermittent Fasting.
The Physical Downside to Intermittent Fasting
UNDERWEIGHT — If a person is underweight and not getting enough nutrients already, then why would we take away what nourishment they are getting? That makes no sense to me. I know fasting is great for health, etc. but there are some people who need all the nourishment they can get. Curing illness by means of fasting can be counterproductive.
OVERWEIGHT — If a person is overweight and thinks that IF will be the sole answer, think again. Most of the time, the extra pounds are not only from lifestyle issues, but they are also from underlying health issues. No amount of IF (or any fasting technique) will help you lose weight if there is an underlying health issue. Get to the root cause of health issues and then IF will be more effective in maintaining health.
I spend my waking hours immersed in the health and wellness community. I read the research. I listen to the stories endlessly. I learn from other incredibly knowledgeable practitioners. I understand that IF is a great tool for health, weight loss, and longevity, no doubt. But it simply does not benefit every person who is chronically ill and in the state of illness chaos, underweight or overweight.
As we make our way through chronic illness, there are times when our bodies are struggling so much that they need support and more nourishment. By removing it through fasting, we can hurt ourselves, creating more physical illness chaos. I am here to give anyone, who is chronically ill, permission NOT to feel guilty if this is not the time to be participating in any kind of fasting.
The Emotional Downside to Intermittent Fasting
One of my coaching certifications is in the Psychology of Eating. There are more facets to food and our emotional complexities than there types of foods itself. We simply cannot dismiss it.
On the very simple view of this — if fasting creates emotional distress, maybe we ought to look at the emotional side of things before fasting. That simple, seriously. Why would anyone shove fasting down someone’s throat?
Think about what I just said. For someone who has an emotional block to fasting, it would literally feel like this concept was being forced down their throats, instead of food. We should not do that to people. Just because IF may be a good idea for many does not mean it is a good idea for all.
Let’s look at those with eating disorders. Why would we complicate the food issue even more by insisting that IF is good for everyone? If you have ever had an eating disorder you know exactly what I am talking about. Pushing Intermittent Fasting on someone with an eating disorder is more than unkind. It can be detrimental to their health and wellbeing.
As one who has had an eating disorder (anorexia), I can safely say that some of us can do Intermittent Fasting with no psychological issues. Some can, some can’t. Do what is best for YOU.
If you want to read more about eating disorders and the downside to fasting, this article may be beneficial…
- Is Intermittent Fasting Just a Trendy Name for Disordered Eating? ~ by Charlotte Markey
Intermittent Fasting for the Chronically Ill
Since this is a chronic illness blog, let’s look at the psychological aspect of fasting while chronically ill.
For some, Intermittent Fasting is a way to gain some control of something their lives and their health during a very out-of-control time. When it is viewed that way, go for it.
Logically (and with a ton of science and historical legitimacy) we can make a case that fasting is necessary for the chronically ill. I tend to stand up and say, not always. The chronically ill have their own set of emotional issues that can make fasting of any kind detrimental.
You know what it is like to be chronically ill. Your whole life gets turned upsidedown. You lose control of your life, your body, your finances, your relationships, almost everything. You feel out-of-control with the immense loss-of-control you find yourself in. You are barely hanging on from the physical onslaught, the depression, the anxiety, the overwhelm of all the loss that comes with longterm illness. You have been told you must become gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, chemical-free, free of every food you have ever known and liked. And now someone tells you that you have to start fasting. Heck no is an appropriate response!!
If that is where you are at, that is perfectly okay. That is acceptable. Let it be. Do not be pressured by others pushing you on the subject.
If you change your mind later, great. If you never change your mind, great. Accept exactly where you are with your wellness journey. Your journey is about you, not others, not science. You are not a robot, you are a human with all of your perfectly wild and messy complexities.
Sometimes we cause our own trauma in our own lives. We feel so much pressure from others that we don’t listen to ourselves, we don’t listen to our instinct and our inner voice that knows best.
Lyme Disease Note — For many people with Lyme, we feel better when we eat meat. That does not mean that our bodies require it, we just feel better on it. While working through Lyme Disease, comfort is a big deal because we rarely experience it. Same with fasting, it can be physically challenging for many with Lyme. All I am saying is, think it out and do what is best for you. When we realize that certain diseases create peculiarities, we don’t beat ourselves up as much. No two people are alike, adapt to YOU!!
Bottom Line to Intermittent Fasting
Yes, I do Intermittent Fasting almost daily. Do I suggest it to my clients and walk them through it for health benefits, of course I do. I also do everything in my power to NOT let certain clients go down the Intermittent Fasting route. It is not for everyone. It can be extraordinarily fantastic for some and deadly for others.
Get to know your particular body, its needs, both physically and emotionally. Nourishment comes in many forms.